Legislative Bulletin – Friday, October 5, 2018

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED
LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR
UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS
THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK
GOVERNMENT REPORTS
SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

BILLS INTRODUCED AND CONSIDERED

S. 3538

DHS Body-Worn Camera Act of 2018

The bill directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish pilot programs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to test and evaluate the use of body-worn cameras by officers and agents. This is a companion bill to H.R. 7028.

Sponsored by Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) (0 cosponsors)

10/02/2018 Introduced in the Senate by Senator Harris

10/02/2018 Referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

H.R. 7028

DHS Body-Worn Camera Act of 2018

The bill directs DHS to establish pilot programs at CBP and ICE to test and evaluate the use of body-worn cameras by officers and agents. This is a companion bill to S. 3538.

Sponsored by Representative Filemon Vela (D-Texas) (0 cosponsors)

10/02/2018 Introduced in the House by Representative Vela

10/02/2018 Referred to the House Committees on Homeland Security, the Judiciary, and Ways and Means

H.R. 7030

This bill would prevent the federal government from using the undocumented status of an individual who comes forward to sponsor an unaccompanied child from serving as a reason to deny releasing the child to them, and prevent DHS form using the information to arrest or deport an undocumented immigrant.

Sponsored by Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Florida) (26 cosponsors – 2 Republicans, 26 Democrats)

10/02/2018 Introduced in the House by Representative Wasserman-Schultz

10/02/2018 Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

LEGISLATIVE FLOOR CALENDAR

The U.S. Senate will be in session from Tuesday, October 9, 2018 through Friday, October 12, 2018.

The U.S. House of Representatives is in recess until Tuesday, November 13, 2018.

UPCOMING HEARINGS AND MARKUPS

Threats to the Homeland

Date: Wednesday, October 10, 2018 at 8:30 a.m. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)

Location: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witnesses:

Kirstjen M. Nielsen, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Christopher A. Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)

Russell Travers, Acting Director, National Counterterrorism Center, Office of the Director of National Intelligence

THEMES IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK

Legal

Judge Blocks Trump Administration from Ending TPS Designations

A federal court judge in California issued a preliminary injunction on October 3 blocking the Trump administration from terminating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for over 250,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Sudan. U.S. District Judge Edward Chen wrote that there is evidence that the administration’s decision to terminate TPS, “may have been done in order to implement and justify a pre-ordained result desired by the White House” and “was influenced by the White House and based on animus against non-white, non-European immigrants in violation of Equal Protection guaranteed by the Constitution.” Judge Chen cited a number of President Trump’s previous derogatory statements about Mexicans, Muslims, Haitians and Africans. He also expressed concerns that ending TPS designation for those countries could cause irreparable harm and hardship to the beneficiaries and their children, forcing parents to decide between leaving their U.S. citizen children in America or taking them to a country and society they do not know. In accordance with the preliminary injunction, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must maintain TPS and employment authorization for TPS beneficiaries from the impacted countries while the lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s decision to terminate their TPS moves forward.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed in March 2018 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern and Southern California, National Day Laborer Organizing Network and Sidley Austin, a private law firm, on behalf of TPS beneficiaries who could face deportation as a result of the Trump administration’s decision to end their TPS designation. The lawsuit argues that the government terminated TPS designations as a result of a predetermined agenda and in violation of the law.

The Justice Department condemned the ruling, arguing that the decision “usurps the role of the executive branch” and that the White House and DHS did not do “anything improper.” The ruling is expected to be appealed.

Federal

Report Finds DHS was “Not Fully Prepared” to Deal with Family Separations

A new report conducted by the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) details DHS’s lack of preparedness when implementing the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which ultimately led to the separation of nearly 3,000 children from their parents. The report found that DHS “was not fully prepared to implement the Administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy or to deal with some of its after-effects,” including family separations. The report notes that DHS provided inconsistent information to migrant parents arriving at the border, leading to misinformation among separated parents who did not know why they had been taken from their children or how to reach them. The report also found that DHS held children in short-term U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities longer than the allowed 72-hour period and placed children in facilities that did not have beds or showers. In addition, DHS had trouble identifying, tracking and reuniting families due to inadequacies in its computer systems, “increasing the risk that a child could be lost in the system.” The report concluded that a “central database” that DHS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said they created to track the separated families did not exist.

In response to the report, DHS acknowledged the “lack of information technology” across the system and “sometimes” holding children for longer than the 72-hour limit. DHS also noted there is no “‘direct electronic interface’ between DHS and HHS tracking systems,” despite claims that they had developed a system to track separated families.

President Trump Officially Lowers Refugee Cap to 30,000

The White House announced on October 4 that President Trump officially lowered the U.S. intake of refugees to 30,000 for fiscal year (FY) 2019, even as humanitarian groups argue that this year’s cap of 45,000 was too low. The announcement came after the White House made a formal consultation with Congress, as required by law. However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the administration’s plans to lower the refugee cap to 30,000 on September 18 before consulting with Congress, which prompted criticism from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia).

The number determined by the White House is well below the current cap and seen as a victory by the administration’s immigration hard-liners, with Pentagon officials and others reportedly arguing for keeping the refugee admission cap at the current level. The 30,000 cap will be the lowest since the refugee program began in 1980.

The refugee cap represents a ceiling, not a floor, and in FY 2018, the administration fell far short of the current cap of 45,000, having admitted only 22,491 refugees – one of the lowest amounts on record.

Migrant Children Transported to “Tent-City” Facility in Texas

According to a New York Times report, in recent weeks, the federal government has been transporting hundreds of migrant children in the middle of the night to a tent-city detention facility in Tornillo, Texas. The children, until now housed in private homes or shelters where they received formal schooling and regular visits with legal representatives, are now living in a “tent city,” where they sleep lined up in bunks in groups of 20, receive no formal schooling and have limited access to legal services. The facility in Tornillo originally opened in June for 30 days with a capacity of 400, but it expanded in September to house 3,800 children and is expected to remain open at least until the end of the year.

The move of migrant children to the Tornillo facility comes as the number of unaccompanied children in government custody reached more than 13,000 – the largest population ever and five times the number last year – even as the number of border crossings has remained stable.

Traditionally, most sponsors of unaccompanied children have been undocumented family members or friends. However, the Trump administration announced this year that potential sponsors for migrant children would have to submit fingerprints, and that the data would be shared with immigration authorities. The administration has subsequently confirmed that ICE has arrested dozens of potential sponsors. Accordingly, many of these family members or friends have stopped coming forward out of fear.

With fewer sponsors coming forward to take custody of unaccompanied children, the average length of time that a migrant child spends in government custody has nearly doubled from 34 days to 59 days. Shelter workers and reports note that the longer that children remain in custody, the more likely they are to become anxious or depressed. Immigration advocates argue that DHS should focus on making sure that children can be placed with sponsors and get out of detention centers. A bipartisan bill to halt the practice of targeting potential sponsors for arrest and deportation, H.R. 7030, was introduced in the House of Representatives this week.

Plan to Restart MAVNI Hindered by DHS Refusal to Protect Recruits

According to a report from the Associated Press, the Pentagon’s plan to restart the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program was hindered earlier this month when DHS refused to protect new immigrant recruits from being deported. DHS reportedly told the Defense Department that it would not be able to sign any agreement blocking the deportation of immigrant recruits who enlist under MAVNI, a program that permits immigrant recruits with critical language or medical skills to enlist in the military. Some recruits can be at risk of deportation when their temporary or student visas expire after they sign a contract to join the military. In previous years, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) used an informal process to protect MAVNI recruits from deportation. A DHS official said recruits without legal immigration status would be subject to deportation, although each case is reviewed individually.

Congress provided a quota in the 2019 defense bill that limits each military branch to 1,000 MAVNI recruits per year.

DHS OIG Report Finds Significant Violations at Private Immigration Detention Facility

A new report published by DHS OIG on September 27 describes inadequate conditions at the privately-run ICE immigration processing center in Adelanto, California. DHS OIG inspectors conducted an unannounced inspection visit in May 2018, where they found serious violations in the facility, including improper and overly restrictive segregation, and untimely and inadequate medical care. ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations Director, Nathalie Asher, stated that she was concerned by the findings, which violate many of the agency’s 2011 Performance-Based National Detention Standards.  This follows a series of other reports showing the worsening standards of care at other immigration detention facilities in the United States. The Adelanto detention center can hold up to 1,940 detainees.

State and Local

Truck Drivers in California Rally in Support of TPS

Truck drivers in Los Angeles rallied on October 3 to call attention to the Trump administration’s termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for over 250,000 individuals – some of them truck drivers who will face deportation when their protected status runs out in the coming months. The truck drivers rallied outside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles and called for “Full Protection Now” for TPS beneficiaries.

Later in the day, hundreds of rally goers drove to the Port of L.A.’s Wilmington Waterfront Park, where they joined port truck drivers and warehouse workers, who had been on strike for the third day, to call for a permanent solution for TPS beneficiaries. Nearly 14 percent of male TPS beneficiaries are employed in driving and delivery occupations.

GOVERNMENT REPORTS

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG): Management Alert – Issues Requiring Action at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California, September 27, 2018

This report covers issues requiring action at the Adelanto ICE processing center based on an unannounced visit conducted in May 2018. The report notes that DHS OIG inspectors found serious violations in the facility, including improper and overly restrictive segregation, and untimely and inadequate medical care.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG): Special Review – Initial Observations Regarding Family Separation Issues Under the Zero Tolerance Policy, September 27, 2018

The report examines the DHS implementation of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. The report finds that DHS “was not fully prepared” to implement the policy or deal with its after-effects. DHS provided inconsistent information to immigrants, held children in short-term detention for longer than the allowed 72-hours, and failed to identify, track and reunify families separated under the policy due to limitations with its information technology systems.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG): Results of Unannounced Inspections of Conditions for Unaccompanied Alien Children in CBP Custody, September 28, 2018

This report reviews conditions of unaccompanied migrant children in CBP custody based on a number of unannounced inspections, finding that the CBP facilities appear to be operating in compliance with the 2015 National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention and Search (TEDS).

SPOTLIGHT ON NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM RESOURCES

Fact Sheet on Denaturalization

This fact sheet provides an overview of the denaturalization process, including civil and criminal denaturalization proceedings, and the current efforts to denaturalize certain individuals.

States Should Help DACA Holders Obtain Occupational Licenses

This blog examines which states enacted laws permitting DACA holders to obtain occupational licenses for middle-skill professions and the benefits of permitting DACA holders to work in those occupations.

Summary of Proposed Regulations Regarding Children and Immigration Detention

This summary provides an overview of the proposed regulations to modify key elements of the Flores settlement agreement and permit the long-term detention of children.

* * *

*This Bulletin is not intended to be comprehensive. Please contact Christian Penichet-Paul, National Immigration Forum Policy and Advocacy Associate, with comments and suggestions of additional items to be included. Christian can be reached at cpenichetpaul@immigrationforum.org. Thank you.

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